This is your chance to write a short paper (3-4 pages or 750-1,000 words) on a visit
to a museum of your choice. Once you are there, you will choose one art object to be the
focus of your journal entry. Your object can be from any cultural period, not just one that
we are discussing in class.
Take these instructions and your “How do we talk about art?” handout with you on
your visit. Use these questions in any order when looking at the collection. If you’re able to
write a few notes near each question or record your thoughts on a device while you’re at
the museum, you’ll have the beginnings of your journal entry ready to work on at home.
Your journal will be graded on the quality of your “close looking,” on what you see
at the museum, and how you contextualize your object though your own observations.
1) Your Museum Experience
Start observing closely from the moment you see the museum as you walk up to it
from the street. How does the museum or gallery building relate to its surroundings?
Is it similar, different, larger or smaller than the urban fabric around it? How is the
exterior marked or decorated?
What is the entrance lobby to the museum like? How does it shape the beginning of
your visit? Who else is there? What is the general atmosphere?
After walking through several galleries, can you tell how the art is organized? How are
the 3D and 2D art works displayed? Are objects grouped by date, theme or artist?
How would you describe the environment? Think about wall color, lighting, interior
arrangement and circulation flow.
2) First Impressions: After exploring the exhibits, find an object that attracts you in
What do you see? This is an important question to ask yourself before you read the
object label. Your first impressions might change once you have read about the work,
and the connections or changes you make between your initial impressions and later
conclusions can form an interesting part of your journal entry.
3) Form: After selecting an artwork, consider how the elements and principles of
design were used by the artist.
What design decisions did the artist make to create this work? For instance, how big is
the work? How does the size affect your reaction to the work?
What do you think is the material of the work? What are the textures and the quality
of the surface of the work? Use adjectives in your analysis, such as shiny or dull, hard
or flexible, rough or smooth.
How does the artist use line, color, light and shadow? What about the composition? Is
it balanced, asymmetrical, unified or dynamic?
4) Context of the Art Work
Hopefully your object has a label. Look for the artist’s name, the materials used in
creating the work, and when and where the piece was made.
Identify the subject matter, as best you can. Describe all of the components depicted.
Is this artwork expressing an idea or telling a story? If so, what is it?
Is the subject, as best as you can discern, based on an idea, concept or emotion? Do
you think that this art object has religious or political meaning, either to the artist or
to the audience?
What do you think the artist was trying to say about his or her subject?
Is this work popular? Do other people stop and look at it? What are some of the
reactions you overhear?
5) Context of the Art Work in the Gallery
Look again at where this work is exhibited. Note what other works are near it and
decide if your chosen work relates to its surroundings. Why do you think the curator
placed the object where it is?
Does this gallery have a theme? A unifying idea or rationale for the group of artworks
Because you have looked closely at your art work, do other objects in the gallery now
seem more appealing or interesting? Is there any connection between the them?
Can you discern groupings of artworks in the exhibit space?
Writing the Paper
Take your notes, assimilate them, and then write about your experience in a strong and
Your journal entry should include 1) an image of your object, 2) an image of the exterior of
the museum, preferably a selfie, and 3) your 700-to-1000-word paper that is saved in a 12-
point font and double-spaced.
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